I am a devout follower of Tim Ferriss. The reason? Tim gets into the specific strategies, tactics and mindsets of successful entrepreneurs, billionaires, CEOs, athletes, chefs and those that are at the top of their craft or industry and translates these into takeaways that anyone can use. So I thought I would do just that with management consulting.
A bit about me: I’m a former management consultant with Deloitte and EY, spending about 8 years working for clients that varied from the provincial government to oil and gas, to consumer businesses and agriculture. I believe I’ve learned a few things as a consultant that can help you be more productive.
Microsoft PowerPoint is your friend
I don’t know if I ever figured out why PowerPoint is synonymous with Management Consulting. I know it’s great for presentations, but more and more, I found consultants using PowerPoint for reports, business cases, and other documents typically created in Microsoft Word.
Productivity-wise, there’s two reasons I enjoy using PowerPoint more than Word: first, I don’t have to write as much. When there are fewer words on a page, there are fewer spelling and grammar mistakes. There are fewer words for the client or management to wordsmith. How many times have you written a report and your boss went into the report to change “challenges” into “opportunities? (Yes, that’s happened to me).
Second, everybody, yes everybody, would rather see a visual than read a 50-page report. Although there is value in good writing, a visual helps you communicate a key message almost instantly.
Ask yourself how you can re-use things in the future
One valuable secret I learned was that before working on a deliverable for a project (this could be a charter, report, business case, proposal, etc.), I asked myself two questions:
- Will I need this in the future?
- In what shape or form might I need this in the future?
For example, it’s common to have a kick-off meeting when you start a project. At the kick-off meeting, you typically introduce the team that’s working on the project, the timelines, the work approach, the budget, any risks you have identified and other project details. Another output common on projects is developing a status report.
If you develop a kick-off presentation in PowerPoint, you can re-use the timelines, work approach, budget and risk slides for your status report (as that’s what you might be reporting on). You may have to make minor updates, but you develop those slides once and then you don’t need to develop them from scratch again. Contrast this with if you created a memo for your meeting. You can still create a memo for your status report, but sometimes, the clients are looking to copy slides into a bigger presentation as they may be reporting on multiple projects. If you had created a memo, you would now have to create new slides from scratch.
Consider how you might develop outputs for your project that can be re-used in the future. Think about the content. Consider the medium. Also, consider who is consuming the content.
Building a personal knowledge database
When I first got into management consulting, there was a wondrous tool known as ‘KX’ in the organization. The ‘KX’ stood for Knowledge Exchange and it was a database where consultants from all over the world would upload proposals, business cases, reports, presentations and other project-related deliverables. I regret to say that I only discovered the power of KX a few months into consulting – I wish I had known about it earlier.
To give you an idea of the power of KX, imagine you are about to embark on a project that you know nothing about, say you are working with a client to develop an IT Strategy. As you prepare yourself for the project, you search KX for “IT Strategy” and find dozens, maybe hundreds, of different proposals, business cases, reports and presentations on IT Strategy. Then, it’s a matter of sifting through the information, getting a sense of what the client is looking for, and then re-using an approach, even the interview questions or assessment tools, that someone, somewhere in the organization, had already developed.
You can imagine how sad I was when I left management consulting – I no longer had access to the organization’s knowledge database. But I realized that having a knowledge database is so powerful that I built my personal knowledge database using my project work and anything shared within my team. Some tips for you and your database:
- Store your deliverables somewhere accessible, ideally in a place where you can tag and/or search for specific topics you are looking for.
- Starting out, it is easier to know what is in specific documents, and I would start off by grouping similar documents together: proposals with proposals, reports with reports, etc. An easy way to leverage existing documents is to go by the deliverable you are working on – if you are working on a report, look through other reports you have in your database.
- When starting a deliverable, ask others on your team for any documents or outputs that can help. Store those in your database and note these down for later.
If you never start, you will never have a collection of deliverables to look through, so start now!